Suicide Leading Cause of Death for Active Duty Airmen

Gideon Grudo

In the last 12 months, suicide was the largest single cause of death for Active Duty airmen.

Out of 151 reported deaths, 69 of them were self-inflicted, according to a report Air Force Magazine obtained from the Air Force Personnel Center. That’s over 45 p?ercent. Accidents were the second-highest cause of death, at 30 percent.

The data includes Active Duty, Reserve, and Guard airmen (though not civilians) who “died while performing military duty or traveling to/from military duty” between Aug.1, 2016, and Aug. 1, 2017, according to AFPC. It’s possible some of these deaths occurred off base, though that level of detail was not provided.

Every instance of a self-inflicted death was also described as an “apparent suicide” in the data. Of those 69 instances, 41 were reasoned to have occurred by “gunshot wound.” Another 19 were reasoned to have occurred by “hanging, strangulation, or suffocation.”

Of all suicides, all but four comprised Active Duty airmen, which the AFPC report classifies as “regular” airmen.

Following suicides, the second leading cause of death for airmen was 45 reported accidents, the majority of which were “loss or accident” of or within an aircraft or ground vehicle.

The third leading cause of death for airmen was 30 reported illnesses, with cancer and cardiovascular diseases leading at 10 instances each.

Of the three reported homicides, two were reasoned to have occurred by “gunshot wound.” The third was by “hanging, strangulation, or suffocation.”

Over the coming weeks, Air Force Magazine will continue to analyze the above data and update readers with context about what it means and what the service is doing about it.


If you’re having suicidal thoughts or are otherwise wanting to talk to someone, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with someone 24/7.